Faculty, staff and students at Southeast Middle School are excited about what they’ve accomplished in their short time operating a magnet program, said Principal Amber Boyd, and they are eager to spread the word about their neighborhood school.

To that end, Boyd and John Hayman, magnet site coordinator at Southeast Middle, led tours of the program’s broadcasting and editing studio at Saturday’s Big Event, a combination car show, free car wash and Southeast Middle Open House.

The Big Event came together one fragment at a time, Boyd said.

“Who doesn’t love a good car show?” she said, adding that the main idea was to bring as many passers-by into the school from the neighborhood surrounding Southeast Middle to see for themselves what the school has to offer.

As of the beginning of this school year, Boyd said, that includes a strong media arts magnet program, also known as the Digital Arts and Technology Academy.

“It’s a school within a school,” Hayman said.

The magnet program draws students from all areas of the parish, he said, while the neighborhood school operates around it. Linking neighborhood schools with magnet programs in this way improves both programs, Boyd said.

The school’s strong digital and technology programs benefit the school as a whole by giving the school at large the benefit of highly skilled teachers, and the larger school benefits the magnet program by giving those students access to extracurricular activities and clubs that might not be possible in a smaller magnet program alone.

While the magnet program is new this year — 93 of the school’s 100 initial magnet spots have been filled — it’s a program they’ve been developing for a while.

“We took a look at what our teachers’ strengths are and built the program from there,” Boyd said. “We can’t thank the School Board enough for backing us. We could not have done it without their support.”

The school also is developing a culture of giving back to the community, including an element of philanthropy and community service as part of the students’ school experience.

“That’s where the car wash and school tours came in,” Boyd said. “It’s all free today because we want people to see the school as a community resource. It’s their school.”

Televisions at the school’s entrance played a reel of broadcast segments filmed by the on-air talent and crew of the Digital Arts and Technology Academy. On-air personalities Relizjah Bell, Kevin Johnson and Hunter Kirkland, all eighth-grade students, have been perfecting their on-camera skills in regular broadcasting spots, while Akile Jennings, also in eighth grade, prefers to work behind the camera or editing raw video.

These four students have had one-on-one training in Final Cut Pro, and though Hayman serves as a faculty adviser, “it’s all student-run. They choose the topics, they create the videos.”

It was one of the commitments Boyd made to her students when they began transitioning into a technology-heavy, one-student to one-computer, program. Each magnet student used an iPad to retrieve and upload assignments, Hayman said.

“We made it clear that they were not going to be using this technology to sit around and watch YouTube. You’re not going to watch it, you’re going to create it,” Boyd said.

SMS DATA is actively recruiting applicants for its magnet program, which will expand to 150 seats next year.

The Big Event attracted about 200 visitors Hayman said, with about 20 cars on display and 20 free car washes provided to the community.

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